Edited on 9/12/13 for clarification on the final statement about labeling, thanks to the guys at BeerPulse.com for the correction
As many of you know, I was experimenting several months back with an enzyme that will supposedly break down Gluten in beer during fermentation. We did a couple pilot batches with the enzyme in the taproom, and although we didn’t get the beer tested, we had several folks who had gluten sensitivities report that they didn’t have any issues with the beer.
I know there are many folks out there who either avoid gluten as a matter of necessity because of intolerance or celiac disease, but I also know that there are some folks out there who choose to avoid it. I’m of the mindset that the more people who can enjoy my beer the better.
I’ve experimented on a homebrew scale with some gluten-free precursors, like sorghum or buckwheat, but these have issues of their own (especially on a large scale). The syrup is expensive, you can’t readily get the base grains, most yeast is grown in a medium containing gluten, and (most importantly) they don’t really taste all that close to beer.
Recently, a couple companies have been developing enzymes which are intended to break down gluten in beer (as well as other proteins which can impede clarity of the beer) and they are now readily available. This is the sort of process that the Omission beers use.
I decided that this fall that we’re going to take the plunge with our fall seasonal Dunkelweizen, and we purchased a batch of Clarity-Ferm from White Labs to use in it. The beauty of this is that I can use all my same equipment and the enzyme will take care of the gluten in process.
We are currently awaiting test results from an independent lab for gluten content on the beer, and I will certainly keep everyone in the loop when those become available (should be beginning of next week).
In the meantime though, we’ve tasted and kegged off the Dunkelweizen, and I will say that if I didn’t tell you it was gluten-free, you would never know. It’s a delicious rich German-Style Dunkelweizen brewed with a healthy dose of caramel wheat malt and a traditional german hefeweizen yeast. It’s got a subtle banana aroma and flavor, and some nice clove notes to it as well. We tweaked the recipe a bit from last year, and it is absolutely delicious.
One final note: There has been some debate over whether we are actually allowed to label this beer as Gluten Free if our tests come back with <20 ppm of Gluten. It seems as though the FDA and TTB are at odds on this issue right now. Although on august 3rd, the FDA issued a ruling that food products which test lower than 20ppm on the ELISA gluten test can be labeled Gluten Free, the TTB (which regulates the labeling of alcoholic beverages) will still not allow that statement on our labeling even if that test comes back <20ppm. Here are some more details from beerpulse on the FDA ruling. The TTB is reviewing their stance, and we will hopefully have an update at some point, but for now, we are labeling this is “Low Gluten” with the disclaimer that “Product fermented from grains containing gluten and treated to remove gluten.” Here is the official TTB ruling.